Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Memorial. . .

. . . for a man I once knew.

In addition to this blog and my street side craps game, part of my morning routine is to scan the local newspapers of a few towns that hold some interest. In doing this, I read of the untimely passing of Steve. He was a former hometown Radio DJ and longtime clerk at Hastings, the sole music/movie/book shop in Dodge City.

I traced through the Dodge Globe's archives. I saw advertisements for benefits to help pay for medical costs after he was diagnosed with cancer. I read articles that optimistically wrote of the possibility for hope. And I found letters, submitted by friends, reading of their fondest memories in the wake of his passing.

I was saddened as I read through these accounts. This was then followed by a pang of guilt.

In late 2000 I was living in Dodge City. I'd been dating my then girlfriend for several years. Things had grown tepid between her and I, and with that curiosity abounded. I'd met Rebecca while she was working at Hastings. She picked up on an obscure Highlander reference I'd made. I was smitten; both frightened and excited by this spark.

A few fights, tears, and decisions later, Rebecca and I had a brief affair.

A few days in, she shared her dinner break with me at Burger King. I sat watching her chew. I knew I'd made a big mistake. There, over a flame-broiled, I told her I regretted the decision I made and apologized for wasting her time. The rest of the dinner was spent by me thinking aloud of how to get my ex-girlfriend back.

That was the last her and I ever spoke. Steve had worked with her for several years, and was concerned for Rebecca. He called me at home. . . . hold on Moondace came on the XM. I'd better listen to his.

Okay, I'm back. So Steve calls me to ask if we can meet up and talk about things. He's concerned for Rebecca and invites me to lunch at Arby's. (It's sad, but I have to explain: This is Dodge City. There are only three non-fast food restaurants and you don't want to eat at two of them. First dates, power luncheons, and work breaks take place somewhere with a value meal on the menu.) I agreed to meet with him.

I didn't show up.

Years have passed and he's never mentioned it. Every time I'm in town, I swing by Hastings. Maybe it's the memory of the place as a hub. Where one with nothing to do would go and hope to run into somebody else yearning for something to find. Maybe, it's to see the register where Ashley, the girl I had a crush on for all of high school, would make small talk with me while I tried my damndest to hold my composure. Or, to see the magazine racks my girlfriend and I would spend hours leaning against, reading. Regardless, Steve was always there. He would greet me with a smile.

And he always remembered my name.

Further browsing through the archives yielded a photo. I realized the deceased isn't the same Steve that worked at Hastings. However, I did know the departed. He came into RadioShack and was an incredible ass. I understand that the warranty and use policies dictated by corporate worked against his favor, but that was no justification for the way he acted. My boss almost brought the guy up on assault charges after he slapped some papers from my hands.

Curious, I called Hastings in Dodge City to see if Steve was working. The girl who answered transferred my call to him in the music department. I hung up.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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